The Chicago ex-pat comedian on his stint in a punk band, not being a misanthrope, and growing up in Addison
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With a Comedy Central special airing Feb. 25, a pilot that just wrapped, and great reviews for his album, Death Of The Party, Kyle Kinane is enjoying stand-up success. Still, he’s a Chicago guy through and through. The A.V. Club caught up with him in Traverse City, Michigan, to talk about his stint as a terrible guitarist in a pop-punk band, why he’s totally not a misanthrope, and his glorious upbringing in suburban Addison, Illinois.
The A.V. Club: You have your Comedy Central special airing at the end of the month. Did you feel any pressure to de-misanthrope or not tell poop jokes when you were doing it?
Kyle Kinane: I didn’t want to do anything from the CD. I want to try to keep it all exclusive—every time something happens, it’s something new. And I don’t think there’s any poop jokes, but there’s definitely some colorful material on there. It’s still me. That misanthropic quote, that came from one crappy show in the basement of some bar in London, and it’s been, like, the defining lie of my career for the past four years.
AVC: The London Evening Standard quote that you’re “bleak and misanthropic” does follow you. Is that something you’re trying to get away from or embrace?
KK: I’m just going to keep doing what I do, but that’s based—that was from one person that came out to review a show that had three people in the audience in this basement of this bar in London. That’s what they took away from it. I’ll say it, it’s catchy. I think it’s catchy. I’ll take it. But I don’t think I’m—I can’t really complain about my life now that it’s all working out the way I want it to. Damned success has ruined my angle.
AVC: You used to be in a pop-punk band called The Grand Marquis…
KK: Yeah! Talk about The Grand Marquis. Let’s get The Grand Marquis out there. We’re back! No. We’re not at all.
AVC: Did you think that music was something you were going to do? And how did you switch that over to comedy?
KK: There was never a career plan. I think I told my parents I wanted to be a writer, just so they’d kind of think I had some direction in life. It made it easier to pick out classes at college, like, “Oh, this is writing classes, that’s what I’m doing.” But no, music was—I’ve based my life off of doing things that I enjoy regardless of income or credible rewards. And so, The Grand Marquis, that was probably the most fun I had most days. It was all my friends. Nobody was really good at music; it was just a bunch of friends, like, “Okay, let’s get a band. Let’s have a party and practice every week.” There was no transition. It just fell apart, and I tried to be in other bands and it wasn’t the same, because it wasn’t the Stand By Me element of me and those other guys. But I still needed the attention onstage, so I got into comedy.
AVC: How did growing up in a suburb like Addison push you toward pop-punk and stand-up?
KK: I think it was very motivating in the fact that there was just nothing going on. I got stoned for a large part of it, but eventually once you’re not high, you go, “This is boring and frustrating, and I need to do something to change it, because nothing is going to present itself.” A lot of the music was in the suburbs. All of the shows, the Elmhurst VFW was just as important as the Fireside for me going to see bands. The Third Floor in Elgin, going to see the Smoking Popes and these bands. “Oh, they’re not on the radio. There’s not—they’re just making music that’s great, and there’s no idea of fame in it.” Seeing that, oh, you can still do all these creative things, there’s a whole scene where you can just do this stuff, a whole DIY scene, and that’s how comedy was when I started. There’d be one show, and as soon as I found out about that, I’d ask, “Where’s the next?” I found out every night of the week where there was a comedy show, and I’d go and watch for months before I’d even try it. It was like music. “Oh, it’s just in the back of some bar.” I didn’t even know.
AVC: Do you think moving out to LA affected your act, missing out on these winters and freezing in Traverse City?
KK: When I lived in Chicago, I didn’t like it. It’s nice to visit. I’ll just be polite and say it’s nice to visit, and godspeed to anybody making it last. “If you just want to complain about it all the time, why don’t you move?” And so I did.
AVC: That probably feels like the right choice now.
KK: Yeah. I’m fine with the stereotypes.